By Sandra Bakare
“Africans are tired; we are tired of being the subject of everybody’s charity and care. We are grateful, but we know that we can take charge of our own destinies if we have the will to reform,” – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
I held on to this quote as I pursued one of my many dreams. It kept replaying in my head. As a young girl who aimed at greatness, I lacked exceptional individuals to hold in esteem. I had dreams without a logical and practical approach on how to start, and this made it appear unachievable. I had no clear nor easy path. I found your story during one of my studies and that was the Jackpot- I was inspired and curious about how you were resilient from the onset, and keep winning. Yes, I was agitated first, but I felt compelled to hold on to the good works you laid down. There I knew I found my role model.
Indeed, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, you took charge. You are a path-breaking policymaker, development economist, and catalyst for change.
The British Paper, The Independent called you the woman who has the power to change Africa, and you are doing it. Time Magazine also named you a hero of the year in 2004, calling you an anti-corruption Nigerian cop. As the first female Nigerian finance minister, and economy, you helped the national economy and largest in Africa, grow an average of 6% (per annum) over three years.
During your tenure, you set up transparency as the foundation for economic policy. Armed with information, the Nigerian people came to their economic reform, as you aptly put it. Because of your efforts, Nigeria moved from the most corrupt nation in 2002 to one of the most improved by 2005. Your intelligence and innovative tactics also paved the way to the cancellation of 60 percent of Nigeria’s Paris Club debt. Pooled with government restructuring resources, you were able to help reduce the value of external debt from 35 billion to five billion dollars in Nigeria- releasing national development resources. It was no surprise when you were named Finance Minister of the Year in 2005 and received the Euromoney Award for Vision and Courage.
Stumbling upon your appraisals, your achievements and your biography, they became the light I needed to continue my dream journey irrespective of the rocky paths. I knew I had no excuse, neither were the limitations going to stop me from achieving my dreams. I stayed in that place of faith even when there was no tangible result at the time. There is no question that your lifework has proven that humility, patience, determination, and boldness is of utmost importance as one rises to achieve his/her dreams. Pondering on how well you stayed put during the trials you faced reveals you as indeed a virtuous and focused woman- a mentality I have chosen to uphold. I am indeed awed by the significant progress you have made and your determination to stay irrepressible. You certainly inspire me every day.
Still seeking the interest of Africans, you became the newly appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organization. You became the first woman and African to lead the global trade body. Despite the oppositions, you came out strong, courageous, and now a model to millions of Africans.
You have proven to be proficient and pragmatic, yet passionate. Like a mother, you care for your people and still proffer ways to transform Africa irrespective of its economic status. Indeed, you are the woman who has the power to change Africa. You have also taught young Africans that neither our national problems nor family resources are hurdles in achieving our dreams. I can testify to seeing a significant change in my life just as I have emulated your work ethics and virtues.
You have discouraged unnecessary limitations associated with the girl child and Africans in general, as your journey has continuously challenged any misconceptions. “I can take hardship. I can sleep on the cold floor anytime. I can also sleep on a feather bed,” you once said. We all need a strong desire to pursue change that influences and shapes people until their dreams are achievable.
I am always astounded at the level of dedication and hard work you put in every sector. You have proven that nothing is impossible. You are an inspiration triggering this fierceness as I continue to pursue my dreams. As tenacious as you are, I am inspired to reckon.
Congratulations on taking up your new role, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. You are a vital source of motivation for every girl-child and African. Thank you for leading Africans to an under-utilized light that hid for a long time. You have paved the direction for others to strive. Thank you for being studious and a role model to all of us.